Tel Aviv University Hosts First Zuckerman US-Israel Symposium
The first Zuckerman US-Israel Symposium was held at Tel Aviv University to promote academic exchange between the two countries and showcase Zuckerman STEM Leadership Scholars. The symposium featured prominent academic and business leaders discussed the greatest challenges facing scientists and leaders today.
The Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program is providing more than $100 million in scholarships and educational activities to benefit participating students and universities over the next 20 years. "All universities in Israel pride themselves on the close connections they have enjoyed with the United States for many decades, but the Zuckerman Program is taking this academic friendship to the next level," said TAU President Joseph Klafter in his greetings. "For this big vision we have Mr. Mortimer Zuckerman – a TAU Honorary Doctor and Governor – to thank, and I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to him and his family."
From left: TAU President Joseph Klafter with James S. Gertler and Eric J. Gertler, Trustees of the Zuckerman Institute
On the eve of the much anticipated symposium, Zuckerman scholars from Tel Aviv University discussed the impact of the program on their lives, as well as their hopes for the future.
"I work in the field of statistical physics and probability theory, which seeks to understand how many simple particles with simple interactions can give rise to complicated behavior when considered together," says Matan Harel, who is currently doing a post-doc at TAU’s Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Mathematical Sciences with Prof. Ron Peled.
"The most striking example of such behavior is the phenomenon of phase transition, where a small change of the temperature of a material can alter its properties dramatically – such as transforming it from a liquid to a solid. The incredible progress made in creating a mathematically rigorous theory of phase transitions over the last twenty years has greatly expanded the scope of problems that we can tackle, making this a really exciting and dynamic field to be working in.
"The Zuckerman program has afforded me the opportunity to return to Tel Aviv – I was actually born in Israel, but left for the United States at age 10 – and to be a part of the incredibly vibrant Israeli academic community," says Harel.
Grace Smarsh, of New Jersey, credits the Zuckerman program with affording her the tools with which to pursue her chosen field of study: acoustic communication.
"I study acoustic communication and social behavior in bats, specifically related to foraging behavior in spatial contexts," says Dr. Smarsh. "During my PhD, I studied singing in bats in Tanzania, determining when and where individuals sing, the variability of their repertoires, and how singing relates to social interaction and the maintenance of foraging territories. As a Zuckerman Fellow, I am now addressing how vocal signals and resource availability affect foraging decisions and movement in Egyptian fruit bats.
"The Zuckerman program has allowed me to learn new tools for my bat research in Dr. Yossi Yovel's lab in the Zoology Department of Tel Aviv University. The Yovel Lab harnesses sophisticated technology to collect precise acoustic datasets of foraging individuals, overcoming the technological constraints that have faced bat researchers until now."
According to Kate Gallagher, a post-doctoral student at TAU from Chicago, the Zuckerman program has helped her develop an international network of academic collaborators that will serve as a valuable resource in the future. She conducts research at the lab of Dr. Yuval Sapir, School of Plant Sciences and Food Security.
"With support from the Zuckerman program, I have the opportunity to explore the evolutionary ecology of plants at the interface of genetics and ecology and to learn new cutting-edge experimental techniques and technologies. I’m excited for my next chapter to be in Israel, not only because of the innovative work that I will be doing with Dr. Sapir, but also because Israel is an important center of biodiversity and conservation research."
Zuckerman Scholars enjoy unique programming and activities specially organized for them by the host universities, such as touring, educational experiences, and social programs. These programs are aimed at strengthening the scholars’ knowledge of and connection to Israel, and at cultivating an esprit de corps within the program, enabling them to exchange ideas and foster new relationships.